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Going, Going, Gone Hardcover – April 27, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Futurist wunderkind Womack (Random Acts of Senseless Violence) concludes his heralded Ambient series with this intriguing, clever novel set in an alternate, semihistorical 1968. Some details are familiar: the Velvet Underground is playing small New York City clubs; hallucinogenic drugs are popular and potent. But a Republican, Henry Cabot Lodge, has been president for years, and all African-Americans in the country have been deported, forcing those with any black heritage to keep it disguised. Drifting through this alternate universe is Walter Bullitt, a drug experimenter who talks like a beatnik crossed with John Shaft: "I cooled on my slab till roostertime" translates roughly as "I slept until dawn." Bullitt takes on occasional blackbag operations for the government dosing unsuspecting citizens with drugs in order to observe the results but has second thoughts when he's asked to prevent the upstart Robert Kennedy from running in the presidential election. As he's mulling over the Kennedy job, things begin to get weird: he sees ghosts, he's invited to join a cult, and a bizarre pair of women hijack him for unknown purposes. In short order, Bullitt finds himself at the center of a time/space crisis that threatens to destroy at least two different worlds. Although his hero's vernacular may annoy some readers, Womack has crafted a fast-moving, hipper-than-hip science fiction novel meshing the exuberant wordplay of Anthony Burgess with the high-concept what-if history Philip Dick made famous with The Man in the High Castle. (Mar.) Forecast: This final, top-notch Ambient installment has the potential to generate considerable crossover appeal while satisfying old fans. Those in the know will correct anyone who tries to call this cyberpunk lit no "cyber" is involved but readers of William Gibson should gravitate toward Womack.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
It is 1968. President Lodge, who succeeded the assassinated President Nixon in 1963, won't be seeking reelection, and one of the Kennedy brothers seems poised for the Democrats' nomination. Some sharkish business types seek the services of New York hipster Walter Bullitt, who actually works for the government in exchange for unhassled enjoyment of all the recreational pharmaceuticals he desires. Walter is a natural for what he is asked to do, but he balks because of the Kennedys' well-known penchant for vengeance. He accepts only after freelancing disappoints and he has met a curious short-tall pair of women whose speech is even stranger than Walter's patois. That meeting is the luckiest event of Walter's life. What with Walter's lingo, lots of juicy pop-cultural references (Walter collects old "race" records--a dangerous hobby in an America that has wiped out all blacks--and hangs out at Max's Kansas City to hear the Velvet Underground), and plenty of sf-cum-noir action, the sixth and last of Womack's alternate-world Ambient yarns is highly entertaining. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Yes, I know, I'm a geek. Onwards.
The book starts in the alternate world first seen in TERRAPLANE, in 1968. Walter Bullitt is a pharmaceutical expert who puts his knowledge to nefarious use for the government, and spends his spare time collecting 78 RPM blues discs. While trying to avoid accepting his latest assignment, he starts seeing ghosts that he can't ascribe to his extracurricular chemistry experiments. Then he bumps into two females who have been sent by Dryco to...well, buy the book and find out!
What can I say, like all the Dryco books, it starts out weird and then just keeps turning corners that you don't see coming until your head starts to spin. Walter Bullitt is now one of my favorite characters from the whole Dryco mythology; his hipster narration makes GOING, GOING, GONE perhaps the most enjoyable read in the entire series.
A few recurring characters from previous books appear. It took me a moment to figure out who the ghosts were, but when I did I had to put the book down, I was so pleased. Amazing.
The ending of the book was so very unexpected and satisfying. The last chapter, "In the New World," won't make sense to anyone who hasn't read the five previous Dryco novels, but to those who have, you're in for such a treat. ( The bit about ALICE had me fall out of my chair laughing. ) The last sentence of the book -I won't tell you who it is about, but it redeems their life in the simplest of ways. I almost started crying. ( But geeks don't cry, dammit! )
So. That's that. Thank you, Jack Womack, for sharing this twisted universe of yours with us.
And if you haven't read any of his books, get cracking. In this order: Random Acts of Senseless Violence, Heathern, Ambient, Terraplane, Elvissey, and then this one. Get all of them. Right now. All you have to do is push a few buttons, for Christ's sake. It's painless. Do it.
Womack's style is so unique, I might suggest re-reading each book upon completion. His "vernacular" is so compelling, I actually find myself emulating it in e-mails to my friends (and perhaps his prophetic truncated style of speaking is an extrapolation of "e-mail-speak"). This book (or any of the books in the series, for that matter) are not suggested reading for the optimistic sort. He has as bleak an outlook of post-apocolyptic Earth as any author I've read, yet his vision also seems to be the most realistic. His works reap the seeds that our society is presently sowing, and he does it with STYLE.
While our government was fooling around with MK Ultra, Womack's more perverse parallel universe finds an accelerated plan far more sinister, even if it isn't fully explained. No need! He leaves enough room for you to plug in your own worst fears.
Sadly, I picked up "Random Acts" for a buck at a book surplus store (It was also, incidentally, an ideal place to start the Ambient series). While it was a great value for me, I find it unfathomable that Womack isn't as widely accepted as Frank Herbert. His vision is just as lucid, and, like Herbert's "Dune" series, I envy anyone who gets to experience it for the first time themselves...
The protagonist, Walter, is a counterculture government freelancer who's hired by the Kennedy family (indirectly) to convince Jim Kennedy to assassinate Bobby. Walter is perplexed by the ghosts floating in his living room and moaning his name. And he's not quite sure what to make of the gorgeous woman and her muscular companion that speak in bizarrely mangled English and who appear and disappear with regularity.
As the story progresses the various threads weave together in a surprisingly coherent (given the disparate threads)narrative. This is Book 5 in Womack's 'Ambient' series. It's not necessary to have read the previous 4 to enjoy this one but you'll soon find yourself searching for the other books in the series. Highly enjoyable throughout. Recommended.
This is a world as unlike ours as it is a carbon-copy. The year is 1968, but it's not the same 1968 you remember (or read about, youngsters.)
Walter Bullitt is just another luckless schmoe, trying to survive without having to try too hard. Sure, he's had a good career being a pharmaceutical guinea pig for the government and taking on the occasional assignment. But, this is a job offer he desperately wants to turn down. Too bad things don't work that way.
Follow Bullitt on a wild, psychedelic ride through the club scene, encounters with the afterlife, and maybe some brushes with another time. Womack's vision is unlike anyone else's and you don't want to miss your chance to hop on the sometimes deadly conga line.